Experts: Trained police needed for school security
The National Rifle Association wants armed volunteers in all US schools. But school safety experts and school board members say there's a huge difference between a trained law enforcement officer who becomes part of the school family — and a guard with a gun.
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"Our association would be uncomfortable with volunteers," said Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers — whose members are mostly trained law enforcement officers who "become part of the school family.'"Skip to next paragraph
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Canady questioned how police officers responding to reports of a shooter would know whether the person with a gun is a volunteer or the assailant.
Former Rep. Asa Hutchinson, who also was a top Homeland Security official and will head the NRA effort, said the program will have two key elements.
One is a model security plan "based on the latest, most up-to-date technical information from the foremost experts in their fields." Each school could tweak the plan to its own circumstances, and "armed, trained, qualified school security personnel will be but one element."
The second element may prove the more controversial because, to avoid massive funding for local authorities, it would use volunteers. Hutchinson said in his home state of Arkansas, his son was a volunteer with a local group "Watchdog Dads," who volunteered at schools to patrol playgrounds and provide added security.
He said retired police officers, former members of the military or rescue personnel would be among those likely to volunteer.
There's even debate over whether anyone should have a gun in a school, even a trained law enforcement officer.
"In general teachers don't want guns in schools period," said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, one of the two large unions representing teachers. He added that one size does not fit all districts and said the union has supported schools that wanted a trained officer. Most teachers, he said, do not want to be armed themselves.
"It's a school. It's not a place where guns should be," he commented.
The security situation around the country is mixed.
—Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio says he has the authority to mobilize private citizens to fight crime and plans to post armed private posse members around the perimeter of schools. He said he hasn't spoken to specific school districts and doesn't plan to have the citizen posse members inside the buildings.
—The Snohomish School District north of Seattle got rid of its school officers because of the expense.
—The Las Vegas-based Clark County School District has its own police department and places armed officers in and around its 49 high school campuses. Officers patrol outside elementary and middle schools. The Washoe County School District in Nevada also has a police force, but it was only about a decade ago that the officers were authorized to carry guns on campus.
—In Milwaukee, a dozen city police officers cover the school district but spend most of their time in seven of the 25 high schools. In Madison, Wis., an armed police officer has worked in each of the district's four high schools since the mid-1990s.